PART 1 – LOST SOULS
Putting the yellow and red disc-shaped crystals into the Ilumnos Machine the party completes the last 2-disc combination and prepares themselves for what unimaginable possibilities lay ahead in the Orange World.
The Ilumnos Machine sits atop a pyramid with a flat top, overlooking a vast expanse of sand in every direction. A few other pyramids rise up from afar, but they are few and far between, and the only signs of permenant buildings at all, there being small temporary clumps of tents here and there. The only other thing this desert has to offer beside more sand is small groups of people, some even alone, all wandering toward the same direction.
The party makes it’s way inside and down the pyramid. On the bottom level they are met with a shrine of sorts. Just then they hear voices, probably two, a male and a female, coming into the shrine. They meet Arsinoe, a cleric of the Gods of this world, female in a her 20’s with brown skin and dark hair and eyes. She is wearing chain mail and carries a staff. Her companion is Seth, a male in his 30’s, short also dark complexion, wearing leather and carrying a short sword, whip, and cross bow. He seems much more irreverant than his pious companion. There also seems to be something odd and unspoken about their relationship.
Arsinoe and Seth join them in travelling to a camp, for she explains that this desert is very dangerous and there can be safety in numbers, though it also attracts attention. Arsinoe explains that she is trying to regain favor with the Gods, for something she did when she was alive….
That’s right, alive. The party is confused and taken aback. She explains that they are in the after-life, the land of the dead. Those who just died try to make it to the land of the Gods to face judgement, the only one’s who stick around are lost souls who know their fate already and have decided to skip their condemning to “live” as bandits in this nowhere. Also there are beasts and monsters that have been unleashed from the underworld, mostly because of the souls who have defied the Gods and skipped judgement, but the monsters roam free and they don’t discriminate.
The nearest camp is really a small collection of merchant tents. Exotic tiger-men, called the Rakshasa, are selling the following:
Gifts: for the Gods. Gold, jewels, gems, fine arts and crafts, etc.
Scrolls: Maps to locate the Land of the Gods and other places, spells to protect you from monsters, and spells to locate lost loved ones.
Potions and Powders: To clense the soul, to protect you from monsters, to hasten the journey
Mounts: Camels and other beasts to ride or carry a load.
The simple price of any of these rare and valuable goods is an organ, which most travelers carry with them in some kind of potted jar, clay case, or fine vase if they had money in their life. The Rakshasa desperately want to obtain these organs Arsinoe and Seth explain, so they they can pass off as a human and enter the Land of the Gods and live in Aaru, a paradise, but the organs spoil quickly and they need a whole set. They also warn that much of what the Rakshasa sell is no good.
They ask the merchants if they have seen a small sphere, and give the description of the innerpiece of the power source, or firesphere, which will allow them to operate the third arm of the machine and input all three crystals, hopefully sending them home. The merchants haven’t seen it, but they hear that they should find a man named Dakari who has been around for a long time, if anyone knows he might.
They head off for another camp, hoping to find something or someone helpful. During the travel “Baran” oddly hears wind when there clearly is none. When they settle down for the night “Baran” is stirred from meditation, and suddenly finds himself face to face with a fiend made entirely of cloud and swirling air. He is paralyzed and must watch as the fiend puts its “mouth” to his and begins to suck the air, and life, right out of him. His cat familiar, Jesul, is awoken and screeches, awakening the group. They rush to his aid, but the fiend is quick and hard to hit, being made of air. It takes their best spells and magical blades to bring the creature down.
The next day they find another camp of merchants and this one is a bit busier. They go around asking the Rakshasa if they know of the firesphere. During their inquiries a small flock of sphinx-like beasts fly down and start attacking the humans. The Rakshasa take cover and help no one. Some unfortunates are grabbed by the mouth of the sphinxes and they are flown off to who knows where for some terrible fate. The party manages to kill a few, and Pavlik saves someone from being scooped up and disappearing. There is a small party of three men who also help in the battle. After all the beasts are gone a tall thin scraggly bearded man covered in scars introduces himself as Dakari and thanks them for their help in the battle.
The party asks him about the firesphere and he tells them that he knows of it. Many thousands of years ago, when his time in this land had been much shorter, he helped a rich and powerful man who was looking to find a way past judgement. They searched many of the old temples, or pyramids, for a way to get passed the Gods. They eventually found a strange machine with a small sphere that seemed to hold much power. The rich man thought he could pass it off as a heart, since they were the same size, and that he could get past judgement. Lucky for him, his plan worked. The Gods took the fake heart, and they must have it still.
The party is curious about the details of Dakari’s story. Why hasn’t he faced judgement, why has he been here so long? Dakari tells them that long ago he fell in love with a young priestess, with whom a relationship was forbidden. He promised his eternal love to her and told her that he would wait forever for her, including waiting in the afterlife. And so he has done. After many years passed he thought she must have slipped by, for this world is so vast. He was overcome with sadness, because he realized his error, that he couldn’t face judgement without her because that would be breaking his promise and would not bode well for his soul, for his judgement. He was trapped. He has been passing his time by doing good deeds by helping all the travelers he comes across, and hoping that information about his love, the young woman who eventually became the high priestess Dendera, may come his way.
Arsinoe recognizes the name of his love. She was a great religious and historical figure to her people. If the reason that Dakari had found nothing about her was because for some reason her soul was trapped in the other world, or some other ill fate had befallen her then she and Seth could possibly help Dendira and in doing so, she could regain favor with her gods and Seth could repay his debt to her, for, she reveals, he is the one who killed her! Now he must help her to clear his soul (though he definately hasn’t ruled out finding another, less honorable way past judgement).
It seems that the party and Dakari are going the same way, and they would benefit from travling with one so familiar with the terrain anyways, so the two groups combine. Dakari has promised to bring the men to the river, and if he’s going to help them find the “power sphere” they need to cross the river to the land of the gods. Seth and Arsinoe are more than just nervous about going so close to the gods, considering their situation, but Arsinoe decides that they don’t want to lose Dakari, for he is their only chance.
PART 2 – AARU
A few days later the party suddenly converges with countless other groups of people, and a massive “river” of mist suddenly breaks up the mounds of sand. The “river” is many miles wide and goes off into the horizon. A few minutes later, countless wooden rafts approach from a distance, coming to the river’s edge. Upon each raft is a person wrapped in shrouds and paddling with a large wooden oar. People begin to board the rafts, paying the ferryman a coin for the ride. The party plus the two men and a couple other strangers board the raft and they set off.
“Tank” sits back and looks into the mist, and is about to dip his hand into it, out of curiousity when he sees another passenger on another raft do the same thing. when this stranger pulls his hand out it is shriveled up and withered black, as if it has aged hundreds of years. He immediately decides to keep his body on the raft.
They are afloat on the river of mist for hours, the land they left behind is now far out of their sight. A long serpentine shadow lurking just below the mist passes right under their raft. Suddenly another massive serpentine beast arises out of the mist a few hundred feet away. The serpent snatches people up into its jaws and swallows them whole. Another serpent pops up, then another, and another. Dozens of these creatures arise and begin to feed.
One serpent arises out of the mist rght near them and they find that must fight this beast many times their size while not rocking the make-shift raft, for falling into the mist would be certain doom! Pavlik jumps onto the beast and in a heroic act of sacrifice trys to keep it from overturning the raft and killing his friends. the party hits it with spells and cross bow bolts while Pavlik manages to take out one of its eyes. The creature swoops down and Glycon and Availin hack away at its long neck. With the help of Pavlik on top of it cutting into the neck from behind they manage to cut open the beast with fatal wounds. It drops back into the mist, and Pavlik jumps back onto the raft.
Another serpent is a bit further away attacking another raft. “Baran” is unable to watch people be slaughtered, so he targets the beast with a few spells and “Tank” joins in shooting it with his crossbow. Their ferryman is now rowing faster, trying to get past this dongerous serpent filled area. That’s when behind them, from around where the beast they took down disappeared into the mist, arises two serpents!
A fierce battle rages, “Baran” takes down one serpent with a fireball cast through his rod of maximize and the other, nearly toppling the raft, is lain to rest by the party’s blades, “Tank” getting the final blow with his flaming burst dagger. Their raft drifts off into peace, leaving hundreds of people to die a horrific death by serpent’s teeth. The party has no idea how lucky they are that they killed the beasts with fire this time, otherwise four more would have arisen in their place, for that is the nature of the hydra!
Their raft finally reaches the other side of the “river”. Before them arises huge stone monuments and large buildings. The other travelers who made it across safely make their way toward a large center building, the party follows. Inside this main building there are huge humanoids with animal heads, such as birds, giant cats, bulls, and more. These giants wear gold and jewels and are dressed in the finest of cloths. the travelers have formed a line, they are awaiting their turn for judgement. As each person approaches the gods they hand over their organs. Their heart is placed on a scale, opposite a feather. If the heart is as light as the feather than the traveler is allowed to enter Aaru.
When it is their turn, the party leader, “Baran” addresses the giant before them. He tells them of their journey for the small red sphere which will help them find their way home, and retells Dakari’s tale of the man who tricked them with this fake heart. The gods find their quest and their deeds honorable and good and decide to help. They retrieve the false heart and give it to the party, they also give Dakari a vision explaining Dendera’s fate. She has been trapped in the world of the living by dark magic. He was shown a way to return, though the time he’ll have to save her will be limited, for those from this land are not allowed back to the land of the living for long.
The party splits, Dakari, Arsinoe, and Seth heading off to save his love, the high priestess Dendera, the rest of the group continuing their journey through the worlds of the Ilumnos Machine.